In a lecture last weekend at the Blue Earth Alliance Collaborations for Cause conference in Seattle, nature and culture photographer Art Wolfe spoke about the strategies that have helped him publish more than 100 books in a career spanning five decades.
Wolfe has traveled the world photographing endangered indigenous cultures, animals and natural landscapes, and he’s collected these images into books on a variety of topics. Wolfe told the audience of photographers, nonprofit leaders, educators and others gathered at the conference, that his perpetual pursuit of new book projects gives him “a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” even though he “rarely makes money from his book projects.” (Wolfe also sells stock and fine-art prints, teaches workshops and creates television series among other pursuits. His books also lead to opportunities to produce calendars, cards and other merchandise based on his photographs.)
While traveling, Wolfe said, he’ll have as many as six different potential projects in mind, which he keeps notes on and reminds himself of while he’s in the field shooting. For instance, while he is making documentary photographs of animals for a conservation-focused project, he might also photograph those same subjects using shutter drag for a more art-focused book. Creating material for multiple books during his trips has allowed him to “amortize the costs” of his travel, he says. Over time he was able to build an archive that allowed him to make books using a combination of new and archival material.
Partnering with nonprofits on his book projects early on also helped Wolfe reach new audiences and lent “an air of credibility” to the work he was doing. He’s also received text contributions to his books from mountaineers, policymakers and prominent biologists such as Jane Goodall and George B. Schaller.
Video of Wolfe’s entire lecture will be available on the Blue Earth Alliance website in the coming days.
Collaborations for Cause is the annual conference organized by Blue Earth Alliance, a photography nonprofit that provides fiscal sponsorship and other services to documentary photographers and filmmakers.
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